Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Here at work New Year Day is just another day, very similar to the one before, and most likely to the one that will follow as well.  Working the holiday produces a bit more renumeration in my pay check, and of course like any special day on the calendar helps to mark the passing of time.

2010 was an interesting year for us.  Last winter was noted by an extreme lack of snow that created a lot of challenges in training and conditioning the dog team.  We weren't able to run so frequently nor so far as we might have otherwise preferred, but we were able to give the yearlings enough experience in harness to prepare them for their careers and whet their appetites for more.  That was my most important goal for the season.

The long-distance race season produced plenty of mystery and intrigue as the mushers and their teams duked it out on the trails. Hans Gatt's victory in the Yukon Quest was very noteworthy and of course Lance Mackey's Iditarod win, his fourth in a row, was an historical accomplishment.  Jeff King's retirement from racing caught many of us by surprise, and even more surprising is that he seems to be sticking to his resolve. 

During breakup I was able to purchase a used four-wheeler to replace the machine that had died the previous fall.  Much of the latter part of winter and earliest part of spring were spent planning the construction of our new handler's cabin, and it's fortunate that I planned ahead.  An emergency at work resulting in the release of oil from a storage tank at Pump Station 9 resulted in a mandatory return to work, and cost me two complete R&R cycles, and much of a third.  The good news that I had contracted Allen Moore and Aliy Zirkle to construct the cabin, so that project continued along in spite of my enforced absence.  In fact, it may have gone along smoother than I had been home to interfere with their progress.  My forced return to work cost me an entire historical reenacting season.  I was working during the annual Alaska Memorial Day Rendezvous, and was trying to do some long-delayed projects during the Alaska State Rendezvous. 

The cabin was no sooner finished that Ted and Clare Kirby arrived.  Ted assumed his duties as handler almost immediately while Clare began transforming the cabin into a tidy home and prepared to start her new job as special ed teacher for the FNSB school distract.  Some of our immediate kennel improvement projects included installation of 2 near free-run pens which, combined with the pens already in place, allows us to house up to 8 of our dogs in pens rather than post & swivel tethers. 

Our first training run of the season, using the new four-wheeler, was on August 22nd.  Fall training progressed pretty smoothly as we had permission to use a trail that can be accessed right from our own yard.  It isn't particularly long, but with a bit of creative routing we can get a pretty decent training run out of it. 

We were plagued with some veterinary health issues through the fall.  Chinook required surgery to remove a tumor, from which he seems to be fully recovered.  Gump died suddenly and unexpectedly on September 3rd.  On October 3rd we lost Sheenjek to osteosarcoma and on November 24th Daisy was euthanized as a result of a diagnosis of liver cancer. 

Having suffered the second pulled shouler in a season, we officially retired Torus at the age of 12 years on December 18th.  Of course he will continue to live and be an important part of the kennel for the remainder o fhis life, we just won't expect him to work for his kibble.  Currently we have a total of 11 dogs in the kennel, 9 of which are running on the team. 

What's In Store for 2011?

That's always the question, isn't it?  You know - what comes next? 

Life has a way of throwing the best laid plans asunder and I'm hesitant to try to make any firm plans for the upcoming year.  I'm expecting to receive a new dog in late January or early February.  If that comes through it make for a very cool story, as well as a very cool addition to the team. 

Those of us in the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project are working on a deep Hedlund line breeding via artificial insemmination.  If that goes as planned we can look forward to a puppy or two in the spring.  That will help us stick maintain a good age spread in the kennel so that we don't end up with either a yard full of retirees nor a yard full of youngsters. 

The free-run pens are proving to be a very efficient use of space compared to post & swivel tethers, so I'd like to install 1 our two additional pens in the kennel this year.  I may also try to reorient our hook-up and "launch" area to avoid a sharp turn as we leave the yard.  I'm sure I'll come up with some other projects as time passes.

That is then, but this is now, and for now I bid you all a very happy, and very prosperous New Year.

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